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Which Is Best For You: Private Lessons or Group Classes?

Which do you normally take?

  • Private Lessons

  • Group Classes

  • I do both!

I was talking to a student from my group Pilates Reformer class the other day and telling her about the new fully equipped home studio in which I am a partner. I was excited to let her know about the new three person classes I was planning on, as well as the private sessions that would be so beneficial for all my students. She listened politely and while I knew she was happy for me, I could also see that she was holding something back. As we discussed the differences between the culture of group Reformer classes at a gym and the culture of a boutique studio where private sessions usually outnumber classes, she agitatedly blurted out “well that’s great for you to make extra money, but for us–we can’t afford it”. I was taken aback. I generally know the community and the monthly fee they pay, as well as some of the scholarship members in the program. In comparison to the neighboring Pilates studios, we offer the least expensive option around.

Which got me thinking about the purpose of group classes vs private lessons…

There is really nothing like taking a private Gyrotonic® or Pilates lesson. You get the full attention of, and personal adjustments from, the instructor. You could chose to work on a particular exercise that might be eluding you, or you could chose to work on transitions from movement to movement, or you could chose to work on timing. Your teacher can zero in on the issue and help you understand it. Depending on your objectives, you are able to improve your practice, advance in your practice safely and quickly, and easily see the changes in your mind and body. However, if you’ve requested micro-direction from your teacher, you may not be moving through a session and therefore not getting the satisfaction of working out. But do you really want to be paying private lesson rates just to work out?

Which leads me to…

Group classes are generally a happy place. You can develop social relationships with your fellow students because you see them on a regular basis. You can be held accountable for your commitment to yourself: 55-minutes where you can totally focus on yourself or give yourself a healthy break from your work. You can simply take classes because you like to exercise in that sort of setting. Prices for group classes are considerably more affordable than private lessons. However, group classes are not a substitute for one on one instruction. You are learning vocabulary words before learning the alphabet and may not be able to put together words and sentences on your own. Or you may learn new choreography or new exercises, but you will end up repeating what you think is correct. If you’re lucky, you may receive individual corrections or a modification or a physical adjustment, but more than likely your instructor will not have the ability to do anything other than give directions. So what are group classes designed for? To practice what you’ve learned in your private lessons. And do so with the freedom of being out from under the eagle eye of your teacher. You can begin to explore movement deeply and creatively, and most importantly, develop self-efficacy.


If you are dedicated to yourself and deepening your practice, your best bet is to take a weekly or twice a week private lesson, and intersperse them with group classes where you have more liberty to move. If you are enjoying the format and do wish to make changes and gradually advance in the work but your budget is limited, your best bet is to take group classes interspersed with a private lesson once a month or so. If you are happy as a clam where you are, there’s no need to make any change. Evaluate your intentions and make the plan best suited for you.

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